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Of all the jams and jellies I’ve ever made, chokecherry jelly is by far my absolute favorite! Although the berries themselves can be quite tart, add a little sweetener like honey and it makes the most divine jelly. The color of the jelly is a beautiful rosy purple and looks so lovely atop a piece of our homemade bread. If you aren’t familiar with chokecherries, check out our post on identifying and foraging for chokecherries. They’re a plentiful wild berry that are easy to harvest so you might as well pick ’em before the birds get them all!
When making my first batch of chokecherry jelly last year, I searched through my canning books and couldn’t find a recipe using chokecherries. The closest thing I could find was a recipe for sour cherry jelly. Chokecherries are pretty darn sour and tart so figured that recipe would work just fine!
Since chokecherries are so small, they don’t have a lot of flesh since the pit takes up a good portion of the berry. When we were picking chokecherries recently, I noticed that one smaller shrub had noticeably larger chokecherries compared to another taller shrub a short ways down the road. It would be way too time consuming to try and pit hundreds of these small cherries so instead I turn them into a jelly by extracting the juice from them. I don’t yet have one of these fancy steam juicers, although I dream of owning one some day! Instead, I make the jelly the old fashioned way by cooking them in water in a pot and straining them through a fine mesh sieve.
Since most recipes in my Ball Canning book call for lots and lots of sugar, I opt for making a less sugary jelly by using Pamona’s Pectin. There is a pamphlet in the Pamona’s Pectin box with recipes for jams and jellies, which is what I used for this jelly. This pectin works amazing for helping jams and jellies sweetened with honey or less sugar to still jell up quite nicely. You can usually find Pamona’s Pectin in a natural grocery store or you can find it here online.
Making Chokecherry Juice
The first step in making chokecherry jelly is make juice. Once you know how much juice you have, you can adjust the recipe accordingly. The base recipe makes 4-5 cups of jelly but since I had 12 cups of chokecherry juice I tripled the recipe.
To make the juice, place the chokecherries into a large thick bottomed soup or stock pot. If you use a thin metal pot, you take the chance your berries and juice will burn on the bottom (unfortunately I’m speaking from experience on that one!) I filled the pot until the berries were just covered with water. Place a lid on the pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Using a potato masher or large spoon, mash the berries to help release the juices. Turn off the heat, cover and let it cool. Once cool, strain it through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. I like to use a spoon and press the berries in the sieve to press out all the juice I can. Now that you have chokecherry juice, you can make chokecherry jelly!
Chokecherry Jelly Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need to make chokecherry jelly:
4 cups chokecherry juice
1/4 cup plus 4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup to 1 cup honey OR 3/4 cup sugar to 2 cups sugar
1 pack of Pamona’s Pectin
1. Pour the chokecherry juice into a large pot. Stir in the lemon juice. Stir in 4 tsp calcium water (you’ll find this in the Pamona’s Pectin box).
2. In a bowl, place the honey or sugar. I used half honey and half unrefined organic cane sugar since we were running low on honey and our bee hives aren’t ready to harvest honey from yet. Stir in 4 tsp pectin from the Pamona’s Pectin box.
3. Turn the heat up on the chokecherry juice until it boils. Then quickly stir in the sugar/honey mix from the bowl. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Turn the heat off, or if you have a large batch like I did keep it on low so the jelly stays warm for multiple rounds of jar filling and canning!
4. Ladle the jelly into hot jars (be sure to inspect your jars first by following these tips!), wipe the rims clean, put on a lid and ring, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Adjust your processing time according to your altitude.
The jelly takes a while to fully jell. Once the jars start to cool off after being removed from the water bath canner, they thicken a little but still appear a bit runny. By the next day the jelly has reached a solid jelly consistency.